Email has become the backbone of modern professional communication, and this is especially true in the field of Public Relations (PR). A well-crafted email can be a powerful tool for building relationships, conveying information, and managing the reputation of individuals, organizations, or brands.
In PR, the ability to navigate the intricacies of email etiquette is not just a skill; it’s a strategic imperative. Successful PR professionals recognize that how they communicate can be as influential as what they communicate. With this in mind, this article is dedicated to exploring the Dos and Don’ts of email etiquette in PR, providing you with the tools to uphold professionalism, ensure clarity, and ultimately excel in this dynamic and demanding industry.
The article is split into two parts, with the first one being the Dos and the second part being the Don’ts.
The Dos of Email Etiquette in PR
Use a Professional Email Address
Let’s start with the basics. As a PR professional, it is crucial to use a professional email address when sending emails. It may seem obvious, but using a personal email address can be perceived as unprofessional. Instead, use an email address that represents your organization or client. This simple step can make a big difference in how you are perceived by others.
Clear and Informative Subject Lines
Publication editors and journalists receive so many content pitches per day that if they don’t recognize your name and if you don’t create a catchy subject line, your email might not be seen and opened at all. Many companies tend to make the biggest mistake of writing subject lines that are too lengthy and not optimized for mobile devices. Generally, an email’s subject line can display up to 60 characters on a computer, while on a mobile phone, it is limited to 25 to 30 characters only. Hence, it is advisable to stick to the point and use six to eight words for the subject line.
Start with the Topic Line
Enhance the visibility and open rates of your emails by strategically placing the main topic line before the greetings. It may sound confusing, as we usually start an email with greetings, but believe us: The email preview, as the name suggests, is the first element recipients spot. By leading your message with the primary topic, you can capture their attention from the moment they receive the email. This approach is especially effective for mobile users and can significantly boost email engagement.
Personalize Your Greetings
Yes, now we move on to the greetings. Using a greeting is basic etiquette and a demonstration of respect for the person. Address recipients by their name whenever possible. Personalization adds a human touch and shows that you’ve put effort into the email. The goal here is to create a warm relationship with the person on the other side of the screen.
Respect the Recipient’s Time
PR professionals often deal with busy individuals. That is why your emails should be short and informative. The more text you send, the more boring it is for the recipient to read. Include the most important information about the company and the topic you want to pitch. Be concise and get to the point in your emails. According to surveys, emails between 50 and 125 words had the best response rates at just above 50%.
Proofread and Edit
It is a simple rule, but often underestimated. Typos and grammatical errors can undermine your credibility. Always proofread your emails before sending them. Utilize grammar and spell-check tools if necessary.
Use a Professional Signature
Include a professional email signature, with your full name, job title, phone number (with country code!), and a link to your organization’s website, as well as social media links, such as LinkedIn. This adds a touch of professionalism and makes it easy for recipients to reach you.
Respond Promptly and Build Relationships
Timeliness is crucial in PR. When an editor or journalist replies to your emails, it is in your best interest to reply back to them promptly. Establishing a responsive and respectful relationship with media professionals can significantly enhance your PR efforts, making it more likely that they’ll engage with your pitches and stories in the future. This fosters a productive and mutually beneficial collaboration between PR practitioners and the media, as well as keeps your brand’s reputation and credibility intact in the eyes of the media.
Add the email address as the last step
In the rush of daily correspondence, it’s all too easy to hit the “send” button prematurely. To be cautious and avoid accidental or incomplete communications, consider this practice: Draft your email in its entirety before entering the recipient’s email address. This method allows you to fine-tune your message, review it for errors, and ensure it’s ready for dispatch, reducing the chances of unintended or incomplete communications.
The Don’ts of Email Etiquette in PR
1. Avoid Pitching Irrelevant Topics
PR professionals often work with a diverse range of clients and stories. However, it’s essential to avoid pitching irrelevant topics to journalists or media outlets that don’t cover those specific areas. Sending pitches clearly unrelated to their beat or audience can be seen as a waste of their time and may harm your credibility. Instead, conduct thorough research to identify journalists or outlets that genuinely cover your topic, increasing the likelihood of a successful pitch and building better relationships with the media.
2. Attachments and Virus Concerns
In email etiquette, sending unsolicited attachments, especially large ones, is discouraged due to virus risks and extra work for the recipient. Instead, consider embedding your press releases or articles directly within the email by copying and pasting from the original document. When it comes to photos and graphics, the best practice is to offer to send them upon the journalist’s request. If you have a newsroom page, consider uploading these images there and provide the link within the email body. These approaches enhance security and ensure your email remains clean, professional, and easy to access.
3. Crisis Handling
Emotional responses in emails and mishandling crisis communication can harm your PR efforts. During a crisis, remain composed, avoiding impulsive reactions in emails, as it can harm your organization’s reputation. Maintain professionalism by responding promptly, acknowledging the crisis, and offering clear, truthful information. Upholding email etiquette in crisis situations is vital for preserving trust and safeguarding your PR efforts.
4. Avoid Excessive Follow-ups
Excessive follow-ups can be counterproductive in PR. Bombarding a journalist’s inbox with repeated emails or constantly checking if they received your initial message can be a time-wasting and ineffective strategy. Instead, adopt a more strategic and patient approach. Wait a few days before following up; the commonly practiced waiting period is around 2-3 days. Send a maximum of 2 follow-up emails, to prevent annoyance and maintain professionalism in your PR communications.
5. Thoughtful Bcc Usage
While Bcc (blind carbon copy) can be a useful tool to protect recipient privacy, it should be used carefully. Using Bcc indiscriminately can come across as secretive and unprofessional. Additionally, as we’ve mentioned before, personalization of emails can make them more relatable and demonstrate that you have invested time and effort into the message. Careful use of Bcc maintains transparency and professionalism in your email communication.
6. Respect Time Zones and Schedules
In PR, you often deal with a global audience. Be mindful of time zones and working hours when sending emails. Avoid sending emails at inconvenient times that could disrupt the recipient’s personal or professional life. Use scheduling features to send emails at appropriate times in different time zones when necessary. Surveys say that the majority of journalists prefer to receive pitches before midday.
In the dynamic and demanding world of Public Relations, mastering the art of email etiquette is more than a choice; it’s an essential strategic component. Effective email communication is a cornerstone of building and sustaining professional relationships, conveying vital information, and managing the reputation of individuals, organizations, and brands.
As we’ve explored the Dos and Don’ts of email etiquette in PR, it’s evident that attention to detail and professionalism can make all the difference. From personalized greetings to well-planned follow-ups, these practices can help you stand out in the ever-crowded inboxes of journalists, editors, and stakeholders.
By adopting these Dos and Don’ts, you’ll navigate the complexities of email communication with skill and confidence, ultimately ensuring that your message is heard, respected, and acted upon. In PR, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it that can make all the difference.
Danielle Coimbra, Public Relations Specialist at PRNEWS.IO. With a background in strategic communication and a passion for crafting engaging narratives, she offers valuable insights into the world of PR, creating content that merges effective PR strategies with compelling writing.